Techknow: The people and products shaping your future - Net heads

Techknow: The people and products shaping your future - Net heads - NAME: GILLIAN LYTTLE

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

NAME: GILLIAN LYTTLE

POSITION: DIRECTOR OF INTERNET STRATEGY, VIRGIN.NET

WEB SITE: WWW.VIRGIN.NET

Gillian Lyttle has been involved in net strategy for five years, first for British Airways (BA), where she ran the airline's leisure e-commerce division, and now, since spring of this year, for entertainment-based web site Virgin.net. Her non-web track record includes a maths degree and a spell in operational research for Allied Dunbar.

When did you become interested in the internet?

I got into the net through my work at BA a couple of years ago. I was given the job of integrating the company's new media activity - at the time the various different parts of the company were all doing their own thing on the web. I hadn't really used it before then - I wasn't a hobby surfer - but working so closely on it, I realised the potential was enormous. The net makes so much sense from a customer's point of view.

How much time do you spend surfing each day?

Around two hours a day, and a lot of that is for personal stuff. I work long hours and spend most of my spare time rowing, so I use the net a lot for shopping and for keeping in touch with my family and friends back in Ireland. I also take time just to surf, not looking for anything in particular, because it's fascinating to see what other sites are doing. They don't have to be competitors, although I do look at those too.

Which sites do you use each week?

I do my grocery shopping on the web at tesco.com - it's the only way I get to buy any food. At BA, I used Waitrose@work, which gave fantastic customer service. I get books and CDs at Amazon, of course, and I've just started using a really great site called UrbanFetch. They deliver to your door within an hour - food, drinks, videos, all kinds of things - but only in London at the moment.

Who are your advisers?

We very rarely use advisers and haven't anyone retained, because we have such good resources in-house. Of our 150 or so staff, 50 are on the technical and design side, with another 20 dedicated to content.

What is your company's web strategy?

Virgin.net is very content-driven - it's the content that makes it the most popular entertainment-based site in the UK. Our strategy is to exploit that to deliver more sales. Over the next year, we will be improving the interactive shopping facilities on the site, so that if you read a concert or album review you'll be able to click a button and buy tickets or a CD instantly. The hardest part will be maintaining the standard of the rest of the site while we do it.

What are the most significant changes that the internet will bring about?

It has made us much more willing and able to challenge the accepted wisdom and that will continue. At its best, the net is like a knowledgeable friend whose opinion you value, but multiplied millions of times over - it really is a powerful tool.

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